NEWS- Vampire vengeance: Kroboth to serve 10 years:
"I hope we can recognize we have these common goals," said Kurt Kroboth, expressing concern his ex-wife wouldn't be able to "get past" the night 18 months ago when he donned a vampire mask, cut the phone and electricity lines to her house, and attempted to kill her. "She is stuck."
The judge seemed to agree. Despite Kroboth's guilty plea in an attempted murder designed to look like a suicide, Judge William Shelton sentenced the Columbia University MBA to 45 years in jail, but suspended 35 of them.
The sentencing decision followed nearly three hours of testimony from a variety of witnesses, including Kroboth himself, as well as a victim impact statement from Jane Kroboth, who took the stand and in a steady voice detailed the devastating impact the assault has had on her life and the lives of the Kroboths' two teenage sons.
With her ex-husband sitting expressionless just a few feet away, Jane Kroboth described herself as "completely and utterly emotionally spent," and portrayed her search for an "emotional reserve" for her sons.
Calling her current home the "house of depression," she expressed fear that her ex-husband would, if released, attempt to "finish the job." That fear, she said, stemmed in part from the length of time she believes he spent planning her murder. Although the attack occurred on Halloween night 2004, as detailed in the Hook's February 16, 2006 cover story, "Horror in the hallway," Jane Kroboth told the court that she feared her husband might kill her as early as January 2003– as their bitter divorce heated up.
"My sense of foreboding was too strong to ignore," she said, explaining how she told friends, family members, and her lawyers and therapists that if anything happened to her, they should suspect her husband. As it turned out, by the summer of 2004, Kroboth– facing a court order to pay his ex-wife more than $6,000 a month in support– had asked two men to kill her. When they rebuffed his request, he took matters into his own hands.
Regarding her ex-husband's fate, Jane Kroboth was conflicted but resolute about what should happen to the financier who once handled multi-million-dollar deals. "I have deep, deep sorrow for the terrible waste of his life," she said, "but my sorrow is overshadowed by fear."
Kurt Kroboth's attorney, David Heilberg, suggested that Jane Kroboth's professed fear is exaggerated.
"You weren't too afraid to file a $750,000 suit?" Heilbert asked, referring to the civil suit she pressed against her ex-husband in the weeks following the assault.
"I cannot let this man control my life," she responded, adding that she is now the sole support for their sons. The civil suit goes to trial in October. Kurt Kroboth's parents sat two rows back, and his mother, Alice, took the stand to testify that she and his father, who live in Wisconsin, would do anything to support their son upon release. The attack, Alice said, left them in "absolute shock."
Lutheran Pastor Paul Ziemer of Richmond described how over the course of 16 visits to the Charlottesville Albemarle Regional Jail, he recognized Kroboth's "remorse, regret, and chagrin." Ziemer said Kroboth had experienced exceptional personal growth, and added, "It would not surprise me if within a year, I might be able to recommend Kurt for a leadership position in our congregation."
In court filings, it was revealed that Kroboth intended to render his estranged wife unconscious with chloroform, put her in a bathtub, and slit her wrists to make her death appear to be a suicide. After a struggle in an upstairs hallway, Kroboth fled but was found minutes later with chloroform in his fanny pack. In her closing statement, deputy commonwealth's attorney Cynthia Murray compared Kroboth's stealthy scheme to the so-called "BTK killer" (bind-torture-kill) who terrorized Wichita, Kansas beginning the 1970s.
"This was a crime of greed, avarice, selfishness, callous disregard for human life," said Murray, asking Shelton to impose an active sentence of no less than 15 years.
"It takes two people to create that kind of animosity," Heilberg responded.
Kroboth, who pled guilty to both burglary and breaking and entering with intent to commit murder while armed with a deadly weapon, was given the opportunity to address the court before sentencing. He stepped to the stand in his standard-issue striped jail clothes, black Converse high-tops, and shackles.
"It would feel better for me if I could attribute my actions to undiagnosed depression or to the stress of my divorce," he said, "but there is something fundamental in me that was responsible."
Eighteen months in jail "forced me to confront some unpleasant features in myself," he said, citing his "need for control," "lack of patience," and "lack of empathy.
"I guess I'm the kind of guy who never stops to ask directions," he said. "I have to find the way myself. I didn't know enough to look for help when I needed it."
While Kroboth said he wanted Jane to "know how deeply sorry I am for all the torment I've caused her," he said it was time for her to move on and look to the future, to allow him to reconnect with his sons, and to "reestablish my business, so I can support my children."
With good behavior and credit for time served, Kroboth will be eligible for release in late 2014.
Jane Kroboth: "I have no doubt he'd finish the job of murdering me if he could."
PHOTO COURTESY ALBEMARLE POLICE DEPARTMENT
Albemarle County Police Detective Phil Giles holds the vampire mask Kroboth wore during his November 1 attack on wife Jane. #